Re: [XTalk] Essay: Orthodox Death Tradition Misssrepresents Jesus
- At 04:38 PM 7/29/2005, Ed Jones wrote:
>...I presume to offer a new approach to the HJ. New from the standpointThere follows a great deal of verbiage, from which I am going to extract a
>it proceeds from a crucial difference in methodology from that followed by
>the Jesus Seminar. That difference in briefest shorthand: Here the first
>step is historical rather than hermeneutic the step of reconstructing the
>history of tradition - - so as to thereby identify the earliest stratum in
>this tradition which is the real Christian canon - - the writings of the New
>Testament can no longer be assumed to constitute a proper canon. (Ogden,
few crucial quotes. My point will be that Ed has mischaracterized his
results-- that is, he has built a good case for the early importance of the
SM, but that importance does not constitute a "proper canon" in the sense
usually meant. In compiling a summary of 4 seminal contributions to HJ
studies over the past 250 years, of which the third was:
>3) Walter Bauer's claim (1934): Primitive Christianity never existed -At this point, warning bells should be sounding, because it would appear
>earliest "heresies" were simply varied understandings of the Christian
>message. Only after the fourth century did a uniform and orthodox
>understanding of Christianity begin to emerge. Paul's thought and theology
>was but one among numerous understandings of early Christianity.
that Bauer's thesis contradicts the very goal that Ed purports to strive for.
> From the writings of Ogden, an article in Christian Century December17,Gee, Christian Century has been publishing a LOT longer than I thought! <g>
>1080, Faith and Freedom:
>...this raises the question of just what is properly taken to be theThere are a number of problems with this: what is "proper", what is a
>one distinguishes between the Bible itself and the so-called biblical
>message contained within it, which is taken to be the real source of the
>N.T. authority in terms of its own essential witness - the distinction
>between the canon of Scripture itself and the canon within the canon.
>Presupposing the canon in determining the Scriptural witness (otherwise one
>is open to the charge of being arbitrary), one is faced with the objection
>that the writings of the N.T. can no longer be assumed to constitute a
"canon", and a number of sectarian questions. Who decides what a canon is?
Who decides whether it is "proper" or not? For example, some early
Christians included the Shepherd of Hermes in their canon, IIRC.
>This objection rests on the claim that, given our presentWhen he says "early church," what does he mean? Does he always mean the
>historical methods and knowledge, none of the writings of Scripture as such
>can be held to satisfy the early church's own criteria of apostolicity
>(i.e.) none of the writings of the N.T. is apostolic witness to (the HJ) as
>the early church itself understood apostolicity - all of them have been
>shown to depend on sources, written or oral, earlier than themselves, and
>hence not to be the original and originating witness the early church
>mistook them to be in judging them to be apostolic.
>The witness of the apostles is still rightly taken to be the realDoesn't this make the assumption that the witness of the apostles is
homogeneous and consistent throughout?
If it does not make this assumption, then you have the problem of
differences within the "norm," which would appear to obviate the kind of
consensus he and you seem to have in mind.
>...(The late) Willi Marxsen argues - in my opinionAh. So we start by excluding John. On what basis?
>convincingly - that the real Christian norm is the witness to Jesus that
>makes up the earliest layer of the synoptic tradition.
>This so-called Jesus-kerygma, which is very definitely Christian witnessSo far this strikes me as not much different from what the Jesus Seminar
>... represents the earliest witness of faith that we
>today are in a position to recover. Therefore, it is here if anywhere - in
>what Marxsen speaks of as "the canon before the canon" - that we must now
>locate the witness of the apostles that abides as the real Christian norm.
has been doing.
>This proposal implies - that Scripture is the sole primary source ofSole? Why sole? He/you exclude not only GJohn but also GThomas? By
excluding non-canonical sources you are, in effect, privileging the NT in
general, and the Gospels in particular.
> rather than its sole norm and that the first step isWhich is essentially what Crossan and the Jesus Seminar claim to have done.
>reconstructing the history of tradition of which the first three Gospels are
>the documentation, so as thereby to identify the earliest stratum in this
>tradition, which is the real Christian canon by which even Scripture has
>whatever authority it has.
>But there seems little reason to doubt that this kind of reconstruction canHere's where I have to start snipping.
>be successfully carried out.
>...The following is Betz's highly significant contribution to this "new"What does Betz say about Q? The logic being pressed here could be equally
>approach to HJ reconstruction. In his monumental commentary on the Sermon on
>the Mount he persuasively identifies this earliest stratum of Christian
>witness to be the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3, 6, 7:27).
used to argue for the priority and canonicity of Q, could it not?
Or, as implied below (but snipped), does he argue for Matthean priority,
and considers Mark late? or is that just Robinson?
>...But the truly disturbing problem arises for the community only when theyWell, Paul seems not to have paid much attention to the *teachings* of
>discover that there are other Christians who have drawn very different
>conclusions from the teachings of Jesus. (The Pauline Gentile community).
Jesus. And the Pauline Gentile community were probably not the only ones
who drew different conclusions. The "Community" of John? The Gospel of
>...James M. Robinson commenting on Betz's Commentary on the SM: "Betz for twoWhere you're obviously headed here is "Matthew" got it right, and Paul got
>decades or more, argued forcefully that the SM was not composed by the
>Evangelist, but was written around 50 CE as an epitome of Jesus' teachings
>for use in the Jewish Christian Mission authorized by the Jerusalem
>Council. In this way Betz was able to use the SM as documentation for the
>other side of the Pauline debate analyzed in his Galatians commentary.
>Indeed Betz made a point of highlighting subtle anti-Pauline polemics he
>found imbedded in the SM. The SM is not just the first of the five Matthean
>discourses. It is Betz who deserves credit for having called our attention
>to the unavoidable fact that the SM is something special, not only as the
>classic statement of Jesus teaching, but in the way it came to be."
>...Betz's highlighting of subtle anti-Pauline polemics he found imbedded
>Sermon on the Mount (SM), pointedly demonstrates the depth of the
>theological conflict that existed between the two inaugural communities most
>significant to Christian origins: Gentile Pauline Christians with their
>emphasis on the salvific effects of Jesus' death and resurrection and Jewish
>Christians with their emphasis on the sayings tradition.
>...The following from Betz's SM commentary (pp323-328) pointedly presentsQuoting Robinson?
>Pauline theology and the theology of the SM as representing two
>fundamentally different gospels....
>"But when one turns to Matthew (the SM), the contacts with theIn sum, your claim is that Matthew, in the SM, got it right, the other
>Sayings Gospel Q are so striking that one has now to realize that the Gospel
>of Matthew was written in a congregation that itself had been part of the
>Saying Gospel's movement."
>Finally Patrick J. Hartin's significant contribution to this "new" approach
>to HJ reconstruction with his "A Spirituality of Perfection, Faith in Action
>in the Letter of James": ..."The differences between the two
>traditions of Paul and James caused a cloud of suspicion to fall upon the
>letter [of James]. These connections argue for a common religious heritage
>Just as the Sermon on the Mount reproduces the heart of Jesus' teaching, so
>does the letter of James continue Jesus' message. ...
>In sum, the most certain canon (i.e. apostolic Scripture witness source for
>HJ reconstruction) is the Sermon on the Mount (the primary source for the
>Gospel of Matthew) and the Epistle of James (the sole writing of the N.T.
>which may be so designated.
synoptics were based on Matthew, and the "canons" of Paul, John, Thomas,
etc. got it wrong and do not represent the "most certain canon."
Recalling Bauer, one might say that all you've done is to take sides in the
heteroxy of the first century, siding with "Matthew" against all others on
the grounds that Matthew's testimony is based on apostolic witness, and
none of the others can make that claim?
I suggest that Matthew may be early, and may have some priority, but that
it does not constitute a canon. A canon requires more than apostolic
witness: it also requires certification by a Christian body that the text
is true, authentic, and reliable. There is really not much evidence that
GMatthew had that kind of sanction.
Certainly this "canon," if that is what it was, was not "catholic", i.e.
universally accepted by Christians as the sole authority.